Jesse Rawlins

The Girl Next Door

Seven heists in seven days—in seven different cities. And Danny O’Day felt amped as he wheeled the clacking Samsonite up the brownstone steps. Twenty-five rigorous years in business, and he’d just stolen his last paintings. Fuck, yeah, hallelujah. Only forty-three—and officially retired.

He entered the marbled foyer: where his eyes embraced a series of extraordinary curves ….

“Hey—look who’s back.”

She’d lived across the hall for six months now. Only twenty-six. And he didn’t see her often. But Danny had a type. And knew that he was smitten.

“Indeed I am. So how ’bout dinner? My place? Eight o’clock?”

“Yes, yes, and yes—but right now I need to run.”

Danny didn’t believe in kismet. But he couldn’t combat the notion that the two shared something cosmic. While both Chicago natives, here they were in Boston. And beyond that he discovered, they read the same authors. Enjoyed the same movies. Even hated the same foods.

But sometimes he felt eerie: some strange sense of deja vu. And oddly, Danny noticed … she never spoke his name.

***

Danny read the New York Times: where he’d made the news again. Back in ’95 the FBI dubbed him Houdini—he made paintings disappear—then disappeared himself. The press loved the moniker. And the silly name had stuck. But just like he suspected, the piece proved short on facts.

Since he’d been out-of-town for weeks, Danny knew the fridge stood empty. Deciding to cook a pot roast (along with all the fixin’s), he snagged a cab to Muldoon’s Market. Besides selecting a prime roast, he grinned wickedly at the high school clerk, and asked for a box of lambskins.

“And what dish would you cook with lambskins” she asked, her cheeks still burning crimson.

“The kind you heat with your eyes—and eat on the kitchen floor.”

Though Danny felt confident with women … he knew nothing about relationships. There’d only been one girl he’d slept with more than once. They’d dated for two years. But that day when she discovered her boyfriend was a thief? She dropped his sorry ass like a bloody hot TV.

Jilted over ethics, rather than see her every day, Danny ditched school as well. He would’ve rather wanked his carrot then spend prom night with some floozy … like Donna “Wanna” Johnson—better known as Carrot Top (not just for her orange hair). So before the year was over, he boosted a car and drove to Boston—where he hooked up with a crew.

He’d never returned to the Windy City. But inevitably (so it seemed) every woman he’d ever bedded bore a semblance to her.

***

Danny answered her firm knock at eight o’clock sharp—

Goodbye, girl next door. Hello, slinky minx. No dull flannels or denim blues tonight. A spaghetti-strap blouse of silky cherry red perfectly matched her lipstick, and enlivened her brown eyes. Danny leaned in … and kissed one rouged cheek. Which afforded a tourist’s view of yawning blue-veined cleavage—a canyon that surely put Arizona’s grand to shame. Right hand tucked below the waistband of her taut black pencil skirt, he guided her to the dining room: her modest four-inch pumps tapping a sultry rhythm on his oak hardwood floors.

Seating her at the table, he laid a hand on her shoulder. Ultra-sensitive touch was one of Danny’s many skills. And letting his fingers graze the hollow (at the conclave of her throat) he detected the slightest flinch; a sudden flutter in her pulse …. Though she garnered her composure: caught his gaze and smiled.

He’d encountered this before—in women that men had battered. Perhaps a secret reason why she’d left Chicago.

They went easy on the wine, but remained relaxed through dinner. Though just as he intended, she couldn’t stop glancing at the boxes he’d arranged on the table to her left.

They’d played this game before.

And she quite enjoyed the ritual.

Meanwhile he tried his damndest to stop glancing at her tits.

***

As Danny made and served espresso, she opened each white box; and smiling … but almost teary-eyed—lined each snow globe on the table.

Brattleboro, Vermont.

Rochester, New York.

Gary, Indiana.

Biloxi, Mississippi.

Hartford, Connecticut.

Baltimore, Maryland.

Buffalo, New York.

Mementos from seven cities. In the order he’d pulled the heists.

“Thinking of snow, I’ve leased a suite in Amsterdam overlooking the Amstel River. I’m flying there for Christmas. And I won’t be coming back. I know it’s rather sudden—but I’m hoping you might join me. And at the very least, perhaps, stay thru New Year’s Day.”

She briefly touched his hand; he marveled at its heat.

“I think if you’ll excuse me … I need to use your bathroom.”

He pondered her response; watched her navigate the hallway.

Just his imagination? Or was the poor girl reeling? He fingered the lambskins in his pocket. And wished he could steal her heart as easily as a painting. He heard the toilet flush. But then five minutes passed … his hopes slipping with them.

“O’Day!”

Startled he stared down the hall.

Propped in his bedroom doorway—

She wagged a beckoning finger … and twirled her lacy black bra.

Dear sweet wonderful Jesus. She’d finally said his name.

Yeah, she’d used his last name. But, hey, it was a start.

Springing from his chair, he tripped on the maple table leg … mother fucker… and fought the urge to run.

Finally scooping her by the ass, Daniel O’ Happy Day ran his tongue across her neck, and set her on the bed. What a way to start retirement.

Clawing at his shirt … Danielle shoved him on his back. Zing—she whipped off his belt, and lashed him to the headboard. Panting, she straddled his waist. And hiked that pencil skirt. Eyes tracing those milky-white legs, Danny’s eye popped. Enviously nestled on her glorious right thigh perched a black lace bulldog holster.

And rather than flashing her top, she slid a sleek Beretta artfully from that holster—and flashed a badge instead.

“Tell me Houdini,” she gulped—swiping her wet neck with a Kleenex.

“Was that any way to treat your daughter?”

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